The disruptions of 2020 caused profound changes to the way customers make decisions and value experiences. Trust is at a higher premium than ever before and social and cultural issues play a much bigger role in how and why consumers interact with a brand or choose to take their business elsewhere.
Earlier this year I talked about a new category of multi-generational customers who have emerged from this unique environment: Generation Novel.
They are the customers not bound by age or any other demographic, but instead by shared behaviours and expectations. Gen-N is digital-first online and offline. They demand that brands engage socially, environmentally and politically in a way that resonates with them. They want authenticity, not a sales pitch. They expect ultra-personalised experiences seamlessly delivered across the platforms and channels of their choice. They want demonstrations of empathy. And they want all of this to take place as seamlessly as their favourite digital experiences, no matter whether it’s on screen, in a physical space or a hybrid environment.
Indeed, the digital-first world was massively accelerated during the pandemic and marketers are innovating fast to keep up with the demands of customers for whom digital is the new normal.
Digital demonstrations of empathetic marketing
The challenge for brands and marketers is to connect empathetically with customers who are moving at speed across the digital space. Opportunities to connect are fleeting, so moments of understanding must be made strategically but authentically.
The State of the Connected Customer report shows 68% of customers expect demonstrations of empathy but only 37% of customers say they experience those demonstrations. The marketing imperative then, is to fill that empathy gap by selling less and listening more, prioritising purpose over promotion, and aligning brands with their customers’ values to drive loyalty.
Along with AI, insights distilled from a proliferating number of data sources will be critical to creating and enhancing the experience of digital empathy. It’s time to move beyond traditional data points and deep dive into customer sentiment to first understand then connect with how customers feel.
Digitisation, digital transformation and customer experience magic
Until the pandemic, digitisation had tended to be focused on improving efficiency, scale, and productivity. But then suddenly, digitising to improve the customer experience became an urgent priority. Successful brands accelerated customer-first digital transformation roadmaps and invested in digital solutions that enhanced engagement and cultivated loyalty by using digital platforms to amplify their values, show empathy, and deliver more personal, meaningful experiences.
The digital-first world brings with it a new sense of empowerment for customers as their options for engagement and informed decision-making accelerate. Brands that recognise that digital-first is a way of life for Generation Novel can meet the potential of digital and IRL (in real life) experiences to be connected, intuitive, immersive and even magical.
Reimagining the customer experience
A truly 360 experience is the sum of every customer touchpoint across marketing, service and sales. And experience innovation, whereby the COO, CMO and CDO all work in unison, is the key to really animating that 360-degree customer experience.
To foster meaningful relationships and drive growth, brands must personalise at every stage of the customer experience — before, during and after the sale is made or the deal is closed. Brands must prioritise the type of digital transformation that goes beyond digitisation to prioritise and foster relationships. Experience 360 involves engaging and nurturing the customer — this is where those demonstrations of digital empathy come so powerfully into play. Brands must make offers that are relevant to their customer needs — needs they understand because they’ve used the right data to uncover them. Consistency and transparency are critical and will go a long way to earning customer trust — because that’s the only way you can get it.
Experience 360 is the brand’s opportunity to create #IgniteMoments around the customer journey. Think of #IgniteMoments as that moment when you have a customer’s rare gift of focus and attention. Beyond guiding their journey and optimising transactions, use each moment to acknowledge customer truth, convey empathy, earn trust, add value, and sprinkle a little magic to remind customers of their worth.